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In a ruling that might have been pounded out with clubs in some Neolithic cave, Sacramento’s Third District Court of Appeal held this week that two female corrections officers weren’t victims of sexual harassment, despite their boss’s penchant for sleeping with — and then unfairly promoting — their colleagues. Frances Mackey and Edna Miller, both former employees of the Valley State Prison for Women at Chowchilla, sued the state Department of Corrections for sexual harassment after then-Warden Lewis Kuykendall had affairs with three female underlings — Cagie Brown, Kathy Bibb and Debbie Patrick. They also alleged that Brown and Chief Deputy Warden Vicki Yamamoto were sexually involved. Yes, Justice Harry Hull Jr. acknowledged for the court, there was favoritism. Yes, “Despite Miller’s rank of CC III and Brown’s lower rank of CC II, and despite Miller’s greater education, experience and certifications, Brown was given the promotion.” In fact, the four women in the sexual inner circle were placed in supervisory roles over Miller and Mackey and often “boasted” about their power over Kuykendall, the plaintiffs said, adding that they were constantly harassed and intimidated — and complaints to Kuykendall and on up the ladder had no effect. San Francisco lawyer Barbara Lawless, who represented the plaintiffs, said the two women were “terrified” after making their complaints, and eventually had to leave. “These were career workers,” Lawless said. “They lost a great deal.” In 1998, an investigation was launched by CDC’s Office of Internal Affairs, and Miller said that after she testified, her life at work became even more unpleasant. Then, to make matters worse, she found out she suffered from an illness known as sarcoidosis, which substantially limited her ability to walk and move. As accommodation for her illness, she was assigned to the building closest to the prison’s front gate and given a handicap parking space. After testifying, she was reassigned to the building farthest from the main gate and had the parking space privilege revoked. But there’s no cause and effect that the court can see. Instead, the opinion reaches Jesuitical levels of hair-splitting and twisted conclusions. “Miller was given an accommodation in being assigned to facility B and, perhaps, in being allowed to use a handicap parking space. These benefits were taken away after Miller provided testimony in the OIA investigation,” Hull wrote, then continued incomprehensibly: “There is no suggestion these accommodations were taken away because Miller asked for an accommodation, rather than because of her testimony.” Huh? Some other particularly indigestible nuggets: On the one hand: “There was evidence of at least three [sexual] relationships carried on by Kuykendall while plaintiffs worked at CDC. There is also evidence that Kuykendall’s paramours were given preferential treatment, and at least one engaged in harassing and assaultive behavior.” But on the other hand: “There is not flaunting of the sexual relationships, but flaunting of the power flowing from those relationships.” Well, that makes it so much better, doesn’t it? On the one hand: “Plaintiffs have demonstrated unfair conduct in the workplace by virtue of Kuykendall’s preferential treatment of his various paramours.” But on the other hand: “Plaintiffs were not themselves subjected to sexual advances, and were not treated any differently than male employees at VSPW.” Wonderful. So male employees got screwed, too. That’s comforting to everyone. Lawless, the plaintiffs’ lawyer, said, “If you have an affair with your boss and sue, you’re protected — but your fellow worker who’s had to live in this horrible situation is not protected.” She said she was stunned by the decision, since even an internal investigation had found people at the prison felt there was a hostile work environment. But at the Third District, the message seems to be that if you’re not hot enough to sleep with the boss, you’re not hot enough to get promoted, so quit your bitching.

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